EXCLUSIVE: David Scarpa has come aboard to rewrite Cleopatra, Sony Pictures’ epic project based on the Stacy Schiff bestselling book Cleopatra: A Life. The other elements are the same on this, with Angelina Jolie attached to play the title character and Scott Rudin and Amy Pascal producing it. This one got close to the start line once with James Cameron ready to direct, before Fox kept him in the fold with a massive deal to helm his Avatar sequels. David Fincher has also circled the project. There’s no director committed at this point, but it’s good to see the project moving forward again. It’s one of the great epic historical female empowerment tales, and the kind of bold project with global appeal that is top priority at Sony, if it can be brought in at a manageable budget. Scarpa’s TriStar script All The Money In The World made the Black List last year, and he’s working on a Daredevil reboot and scripted a draft of the Alexander Litvinenko project for Graham King. He’s repped by Gersh and David Beaubaire is overseeing for the studio.
Frank Wood on The Knick, The Newsroom, and flirting with Angelina Jolie https://t.co/2nE8uYJUzb pic.twitter.com/oPimXeWLcZ— The AV Club (@TheAVClub) April 6, 2016
Changeling (2008)—“Ben Harris”AVC: What was your impression of Clint Eastwood as a director?
FW: He’s very economical, very soft-spoken, and never says anything like “Action.” He just sort of turns to the camera crew, and then at some point you go, “Oh, I guess I’m supposed to be talking.” You kind of figure it out. At one point I made a technical error. He’d asked me to stand next to Angelina Jolie—they wanted to direct focus, for the lights and everything. So what I did [during the take] was exactly what I did when they focused the lights: I stood there for a moment and then I walked away. Theoretically, I was supposed to stand there and listen there the whole time she was on the phone, talking to whoever. Rather than redo it, they just followed me as I walked away. Clint Eastwood said, “Actors sometimes have the right instincts.” Which to my mind wasn’t instinct, I was just making a mistake. I liked him very much as a director.
That’s a really good example of remembering that the circumstances of the story matter more than the lines. I got out there and I had this scene with Angelina Jolie, and I met her, and the first thing she said to me was, “I don’t really have all the lines down, so I’m just going to improvise.” I said, “Oh. Oh, okay.” And then I remember asking her if she could say this line or that line—I had in my head that I needed to react to what this line was in order for the rest of what I said to make sense.
If I had it to do over again, I would’ve been like, “Oh, this is a great opportunity to improvise with Angelina Jolie. We’ll walk through the street and she’s just going to say stuff and I’m going to say stuff, and if it doesn’t work out, Clint Eastwood will say, ‘Do it again, and make sure this happens.’” And when I was bringing this up, Eastwood said, “Oh, yeah, you probably should say those lines, Angelina.” But just seeing that I’m her boss and I kind of have a crush on her, instead I started thinking I want to get that line in, so I can have this reaction. And that’s not—the good reactions you get when you get in front of the camera are not the ones you planned to have. I don’t think many actors would be surprised to hear that, but I keep having [to relearn it]. In a way, film is very improvisational, although someone like Aaron Sorkin wants all the words said. All the prepositions, all the “of”s and “it”s. So you get bogged down in that, too. But the way his speeches are shaped is very important to him.